Basic Quilting Tools - Essentially Loved Quilts

Basic Quilting Tools

Have you been baffled about what you NEED to start quilting?? There're so many options out there, and all sorts of extras, but where is the minimum? Well, today is your day! Today I'm sharing the very basic tools every quilter must have as well as my personal recommendations for each of them—of course I’m opinionated 😁.

The goal of this basics list is to get you started or focused on your quilting journey, which will hopefully save you some money in the long run. (I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity 😅, so let's not break the bank either.) Let’s get started. I’ll do a quick run-down list for you, but then keep reading to find out why you need them and my personal recommendations*.

* A quick note: this post will contain affiliate links, but you won’t pay anything extra if you choose to use that link, but it does help me out. And I would never recommend something I don’t already have faith in. 😊


Essentially loved quilts Basic Quilting Tools for every quilter Blog post


The Basic List…

Here are your basic tools that you need for quilting:

  • Iron
  • Ironing Board
  • Cutting Mat, self-healing
  • Rotary Cutter (and accompanying replacement blades)
  • Acrylic Quilting Ruler
  • Pins
  • Pin Cushion or Dish
  • Sewing Machine 😁 and required accessories (pedal, power cord, bobbins, etc.)
  • ¼” Foot
  • Open-Toe Foot (optional, but can make some piecing easier)
  • Walking Foot (if you can combine this with the ¼” foot even better!)
  • Thread
  • Needles
  • Fabric 😁
  • Scissors or Snips
  • Seam Ripper
  • Marking Pen/cil
  • Magic Clips or Wonder Clips
The List Explained… (pictured down below each item)


This is one of those that you probably already have in your home, so as long as it works its good. 😊 It’s a definite must for pressing seams and fabric flat, which is necessary before doing any cutting or sewing. I do love my cordless Panasonic iron for the simple fact that it is cordless—I don’t have to fight with a cord or trip over it—I’m a klutz 😆—when I’m pressing. The downfall of it is its small footprint, but otherwise it’s great!

Essentially Loved Quilts favorite iron is Panasonic Cordless Iron in teal


Ironing Board

If you have an iron, it’s likely you also have an ironing board. If not it’s worth it to have one as you’ll use it often, especially with larger pieces, such as finished quilt tops and large blocks. An alternative to a full-sized ironing board is a wool mat you can find at most local quilt shops or order online. The nice thing with a wool mat is you can roll it up or store it on its side. The other great thing about a wool mat is you can have it next to your sewing space, so you don’t have to move far to press a smaller seam.

A quick note about my personal ironing board is that it has an iron holder on the end, which I find handy to keep my iron near, but not on my ironing board. And if you have a corded iron it's a great (and safe) place to rest it, even when it's hot. 😊


Cutting Mat, self-healing

This is one of those must-have items… you don’t want to be cutting on your kitchen table and leave cut marks 😆. Okay, seriously though, a self-healing cutting mat is wonderful! I highly recommend going with the largest you can fit in your space as it gives so much more flexibility when cutting fabric. I love my Calibre Art cutting mats for a couple reasons…

  • they’re flexible, my two mats get bent regularly in travel to classes, so for them to be flexible with no residual bends is awesome!!
  • they’re heat resistant (I used to have mine in front of a window and had NO warping issues)
  • it’s double-sided with one side having standard markings and the other metric, this also makes it nice to have the backside option for squaring quilts and not putting additional stress on the regularly used side.
  • It’s pretty. Lol! I know this is dorky, but I love the color and it’s not a bleh color like gray or yellow or green. It’s a pretty, dark teal green with light colored lines.
  • It’s not smelly! 🤣 I’m sure that was unexpected, but after reading Amazon reviews I guess it’s a big deal when ordering a mat online. But because my mats were made in Europe, they don’t allow the same chemical processes as other companies and so had no off-gassing when they came out of the box. Yay!
  • It is self-healing, which means that after you make your cut the mat “knits” itself back together in that spot. I will say that with repeated use in the same spot, however, you will find that after time it doesn’t heal as well.
  • The ½” grid lines are clear and easy to read, with the 5” grid lines being bolder than the rest. The numbers and additional grid marks are outside of the actual cutting space for ease of seeing what you’re doing with large fabric pieces.

You can see my cutting mat in all my pictures... I tend to use it as my background for most quilting related posts 😁.


Rotary Cutter (and accompanying replacement blades)

I can't even imagine having to cut out all the pieces of a quilt with SCISSORS 😳, but that's what they used to do until 1979 when the rotary cutter was invented!! I gotta tell you, I'm SO grateful for their invention and, of course I have a preference on rotary cutters, maybe it’s because I started with this one or maybe because I feel it’s safer than other options 🤷🏻‍♀️️?? This Olfa Rotary Cutter is:

  • ergonomic (YAY!)
  • locks closed for safety.
  • Plus, the big reason in my opinion why I prefer it, it keeps your fingers away from the blade! It has a bumper or guard that is a solid separator from the blade that I can put pressure on when I’m cutting. The other rotary cutters don’t have that or at least I don’t feel as secure with it. So anytime I travel to class I take my rotary cutter with me.
  • One last wooHOO about this rotary cutter is that I can lock it open, which is helpful on some occasions when I need to focus on the cutting versus holding it open and cutting and holding the ruler in place 😅, so that locking open leaves me one less thing to handle during more concentration-required cutting tasks.

For size you have a few options:

  • 18 and 28mm which are both impractical for regular quilt cutting as they aren’t deep enough to be used with our quilting rulers; they are intended for applique cutting without a ruler.
  • 60mm, which is great for thick projects like multiple layers of flannel, but otherwise large and a bit unwieldy.
  • The last size I know of is the 45mm and my fav it’s versatile enough to do curves with or without a curved ruler as well as deep enough for most projects. The 45mm is also the one most widely available and easy to get replacement blades for.

Overall, I prefer this rotary cutter and if I can get it in blue, I’m a happy girl (pretty things, remember 😁?) if blue isn’t available then I’ll stick with the standard yellow, though not my fav.


Olfa Rotary Cutter in blue and replacement blades


Replacement blades

These come in awesome little plastic storage cases for the varying sizes (more on that in a min) and you can get larger packs or buy them individually. There’re options as well, lots of them 😆. You have a Endurance option, which many swear by for lasting longer (I don’t keep well enough track to have a say on this one 😅), the downside to this is they don’t sell this blade in multi-packs. There are company branded blades and the best advice I have here is, be careful as “you get what you pay for”. I like to buy blades in the larger packs when my budget allows.

Acrylic Quilting Ruler

These are special rulers that are thicker than other sewing rulers and have lots line and grid marks on them to make measuring to cutting easier. My FAV brand is Creative Grids. I prefer and recommend them for a couple reasons.

  • They have a special texture on the back that helps prevent sliding while cutting.
  • Their markings are FABULOUS utilizing both black and white, so you have a better chance of seeing the lines, no matter the fabric color.
  • They are a clear ruler. Yes, most rulers are clear, but some of those rulers with “built-in” grips on the back are a colored ruler, making seeing through them more difficult.

For the BASIC quilting rulers, I recommend either the 6½”x 24½” or 8½”x 24½”, the 8 ½” is my go-to. And this should be the first one you get as it’s the most needed for cutting fabrics up.

The second ruler you’ll need is a 12½” square, so you can square up your units and blocks (check out my reference guide to understand units and blocks a bit more).

Essentially Loved Quilts Creative Grids Quilt Ruler
This is a 6 1/2" ruler... the bigger ones are a bit harder to photograph 😅, but at least you get the idea 😁.



The advice given to me in the beginning is you want pins that are long and thin. I would also definitely recommend a “glass head” pin as well, so if you run over it with your iron, you aren’t melting plastic to your fabric or ironing board. My fav pins are these glass head pins that come in red and white. I use the red the most because they’re so easy to see due of the contrast to my fabric. I do really like these fine “flower head” pins because they’re so long and thin, but because they’re a flat-head they’re a bit more difficult to pick up if my fingernails are short, which is usually 😆. Whatever you do make sure you look at thickness and length—you want long and thin, past that make them pretty. 😁

Essentially Loved Quilts Pins in Pin Cushion and Magnetic Pin Dish


Pin Cushion or Dish

If you have pins you need a place to put them (besides the floor 🦶🏻😅) My pins typically live in this pin cushion (because purple is pretty 😁), but when I’m sewing I’ll drop them in my magnetic dish. Of course, you can make your own pin cushion and there are tons of tutorials out there for that. My suggestion is that your pin cushion have ground walnut shells inside to help keep your pins sharp.


Sewing Machine 😁 and required accessories (pedal, power cord, bobbins, etc.)

This one I will leave to you 😄. I love my Husqvarna Vikings (I have two) with their metal guts, but there are lots of options out there, so if you are in the market make a list of what you want to do with your sewing machine to help guide you in the buying process. Just remember you don’t need more than a basic straight stitch to piece, quilt, and bind your quilts, everything else is just the cherry on top 😃, but often does make sewing easier. Lol!


¼” Foot

All quilts are based off a ¼” seam, so having a ¼” foot will make your quilty piecing a lot easier. I’ve had students that used a standard foot, but often forgot to make the left/right adjustment of the needle to get that ¼” seam, so I highly recommend you have a dedicated ¼” foot. And the foot will be completely dependent upon your machine. Some brands can use “any” foot, others are specific to the brand, so make sure to buy one when buying your machine.


Open-Toe Foot (optional but can make some piecing easier)

Having an open-toe foot is optional as far as feet go but can make it easier when you need to sew ON a line. And again, this foot will depend on your machine.

Essentially Loved Quilts Walking foot, open-toe foot, and 1/4 inch foot

Walking Foot (if you can combine this with the ¼” foot even better!)

I LOVE my walking foot! I use it for quilting and binding typically, but if you can get a ¼” foot for your walking foot that would be AWESOME!!! Save yourself some money and have one less foot to worry about—you have two already 🦶🏻😁, couldn’t help it. Lol!

The walking foot is special… we have “feed dogs” on our machine that help move the fabric; the walking foot has a set of “feed dogs” on its underside as well to help both the top and bottom fabric move at the same rate, which is especially helpful for lots of layers or playing with minky/cuddle fabric.


There are quite a few options for thread out there, but for quilt piecing I know of two that quilters go back to again and again… Mettler and Aurifil. Mettler is a polyester based thread whereas Aurifil is a long-staple cotton thread. I can only speak for Aurifil as that’s what I use and recommend, but I’m also a quilty purist… I prefer cotton for my fabrics, batting, and thread as much as possible.

As for choosing color for your thread there are two schools of thought… neutrals (that go with everything) like this set or choose a color to match your background fabric (as it’s the most used). I typically prefer to use a neutral, so I don’t have to get too many threads…space and money saver 😅.

Aurifil Thread collection in white, cream, silver, black, and deep blue



I know there’s at least a few brands out there for sewing machine needles… Singer has their own, Husqvarna Viking has a line, and Schmetz also has a line. My LQS (Local Quilt Shop) carries Schmetz even though they are a Viking dealer; the owner/repair guy said he prefers the Schmetz to the Viking for quality, so those are the ones I use and recommend (and they play nice with my machine--that always helps 😄).

Specifically, I recommend Microtex 80/12 (chrome, if you can) and Topstitch 90/14 (also chrome). And if you have the budget to do it, it wouldn’t hurt to buy them in bulk. Here is the bulk Microtex and bulk Topstitch, just in case 😉.

Schmetz Microtex Chrome 80/12 and topstitch chrome 90/14 sewing machine needles


Fabric –

Well, we’ve got to have this to do any kind of sewing or quilting, right?!?!? Lol 😂. I definitely recommend using quality fabric and first and foremost supporting your local quilt shop(s) as much as possible before shopping with online shops. For more of my thoughts on fabric check out this blog post.

Essentially Loved Quilts folded fabric in dusty navy, light plum, and teal


Scissors or Snips

You absolutely need to have a pair of scissors of some kind on hand when quilting, whether it’s to trim thread, cut thread from your machine, or trim off extra fabric after sewing a seam. I LOVE this sharp little guy and use him most of the time, but it’s nice to have a pair of snips for the quick thread trim, this guy hangs out with me during binding and always near my machine. If you're in an either or scenario then go with the scissors, vs the snips, the scissors are more versatile 😊.

Essentially Loved Quilts Sewing scissors and snips


Seam Ripper

I think my fav seam ripper has since been replaced, but this one from Clover is my fav as it’s the most comfortable in my “man-sized” hands (I have long “piano” fingers 😊). The biggest thing I would recommend with a seam ripper is that it’s lightweight enough to not break if you drop it (I’ve replaced two of the fancy acrylic, double-ended ones 😫), plus it also needs to be comfortable enough for your hand to use comfortably.

Essentially Loved Quilts seam rippers


Marking Pen/cil

My fav marking tools are the FriXion heat erase pens as your hot iron will make the ink disappear. I have purple (my dark color) and two lighter colors (light blue and pink) that pretty well cover any of my projects, but really you can get away with a dark one and a white one 👉🏻. The only exceptions being the DARK fabrics like navy blue and black, for those I use General’s Pastel Chalk Pencil in white and I keep a pencil sharpener around as well.

Essentially Loved Quilts fabric marking pens and pencil


Magic or Wonder Clips

Everyone else swears by Wonder Clips, except me… I love these Magic Clips because they are flat and the tip of them can slid under my sewing foot without having to be taken off or causing interference with my seam. They also have ¼” markings on them for reference. You only need one pack of 12 unless you’re hand-binding your quilt in which case I would recommend two sets. As they’re really only needed for binding (and special projects like those with vinyl) you can hold off buying them until you start/send out your quilt for quilting that way you’ll have them in your hot little hands by the time binding needs to be done.

Essentially Loved Quilts small Magic Clips


A couple non-essential additions that make my quilty life easier are this stiletto & pressing tool by ByAnnie's and this telescoping magnetic wand. The stiletto is textured and helps move fabric under my sewing needle (so my fingers won’t be needle punched 😅) and is a big help for when I’m putting on binding. The magnetic (magic) wand helps to pick up pins, needles, and other metal objects from places I have a hard time reaching… like the guts of my machine if I broke a needle 😆.

ByAnnie's stiletto and magnetic telescoping wand
Stiletto is top and magnetic wand is bottom 😉.


Whew! Okay, that was a long one, but full of good info and links to help you get the basic tools to get started on your quilting journey. If you decide to purchase anything using the links provided Thank You, I appreciate the extra support. 🥰

Please let me know if you have any questions about the above info, I’d be happy and answer and possibly update for clarification if needed. 😊

Warmth & Love,
💜 Tracy


PS. If you're new to quilting here are a couple other blog posts you might be interested in!

Basic Quilting Terminology

Quilt Blocks for Beginning Quilters

Let's Talk Fabric Quality


Save to Pinterest 

Quilting Tools

This blog contains affiliate links. That means that if you make a purchase after clicking on a link, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions about products are my own and I will never recommend products that I have not or would not use myself. Thanks for supporting Essentially Loved!

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